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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Atlanta Hawks Preview

The Blazers aim to keep rolling in Atlanta.

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NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (36-28) vs Atlanta Hawks (35-30)

What a difference a week makes. Last Monday the team seemed to be in shambles. After losing five in a row including four at home, the question wasn’t where the Portland Trail Blazers would be seeded for the playoffs but rather whether they might drop out of the post-season altogether. Now, after winning four in a row on the road and some friendly results elsewhere, the Blazers are in position to avoid the play-in, and a fifth seed is within reach.

The Atlanta Hawks are also hoping to avoid the play-in, currently sitting in the fifth seed. As in the West, the battle to avoid the play-in is very close, with fourth through seventh separated by just two games in the win column. Atlanta most recently snapped a three game losing streak by beating the Chicago Bulls at home on Saturday, 108-97. That win clinched a post-season birth for the Hawks.

Monday, May 3 - 5:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBATV, NBA League Pass or see games all season on fuboTV
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Norman Powell (questionable)
Hawks injuries: De’Andre Hunter (out), Cam Reddish (out), Tony Snell (questionable), Bogdan Bogdanovic (probable)
SBN Affiliate: Peachtree Hoops

What To Watch For

  • Points in the Paint. The Blazers and Hawks have both been mediocre defending the paint this season. Portland gives up 48.4 points per game in the paint, while Atlanta surrenders 49 per game, good for 19th and 21st in the NBA respectively. However, over the last 4 games the Blazers are tied for 3rd in the Association, giving up 43 per game. Meanwhile the Hawks are 27th, leaking 56 points per game. Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter have a big opportunity here to put up some serious points while keeping the Hawks in check.
  • 3 is Greater Than 2. Portland is prolific at shooting from deep, and they are also pretty good at making them too. The Blazers are second in attempts in the NBA, second in makes and sixth in three point percentage. The Hawks meanwhile are mediocre in all of these statistics. If the Blazers’ sharpshooters are on target, it’s hard to see how the Hawks would be able to keep up.
  • Defense. The Blazers have spent most of the season pretending to play defense, giving up 114.7 points per game, 24th in the NBA. Over the last four games, Portland has improved, allowing 112.3. That improvement puts them at 14th in the NBA over that span. Any improvement is worth it’s weight in gold for this team, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The eye test shows that the Blazers have looked capable of playing respectable defense when it counts, and perhaps the recent statistics are actually underestimating the Blazer’s improvement due to prolonged periods of garbage time. Regardless, it is imperative that the Blazers build on their recent defensive effort and not regress.

What Others Are Saying

Michael Pine of FiveThirtyEight writes that the Hawks have gone all-in on offense:

All of a sudden, their roster has tilted more toward enhancing Young’s prodigious strengths than covering his clear blemishes. Gallinari and Bogdanović aren’t sieves, but they also aren’t the pieces a team would build a defense-first culture around. Given how much Atlanta spent on them, that says something, especially considering a positional overlap at power forward between Gallinari and the double-double-producing pogostick John Collins, who’s also a bit patchy on defense and is due for a contract extension.

The Hawks will be up to 43% occupancy for the playoffs writes Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

They’ll be making a few notable changes to the arena’s setup, namely adding one section — about 500 seats — behind the existing courtside seating for fully vaccinated people, who will have to test negative upon entry and also wear masks. The Hawks are working on multiple options for people to provide proof of vaccination, in addition to showing a vaccine card.

The Atlanta Voice reports that the Hawks are supporting wheelchair basketball in Atlanta:

BlazeSports America, a nonprofit organization founded after the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games and a leader in the field of adaptive sports and recreation, has announced the continuation of their partnership with the Atlanta Hawks. Under the agreement, the Hawks will sponsor the BlazeSports Junior Hawks Wheelchair Basketball team for the 2021 season. In addition, the Hawks will be the presenting sponsor of the annual Big Peach Slam Wheelchair Basketball Tournament which is set to take place on May 15th-16th in Atlanta at Acworth Community Center.